Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns
7:30 p.m. PST
March 10, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. True or false: Goran Dragic deserves a spot on an All-NBA team.
Andrew Lynch, Hardwood Paroxysm, (@AndrewLynch): True. I hate that word, but Dragic has certainly played like an All-NBA guard. Dragic is sixth among all guards in Win Shares this year, per Basketball-Reference.com, and tied for fourth among qualified players in Win Shares per 48 minutes. His 60.9 percent true shooting percentage leads all guards, and only a handful of guys have a higher usage rate. He checks all the narrative boxes, too, as an All-Star “snub” and the on-court leader of a surprising playoff contender. With voters not restricted by conferences the way All-Star selectors are, there’s room for all of the fantastic backcourt players from the Western Conference, which should make Dragic an easy choice.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): He certainly has a case. He’s the only point guard in the league with a scoring split above 50/40. Dragic is a terrorizing force on the pick and roll, ranked 5th in the NBA per Synergy. He shoots over 50 in the free throw area, negating the fact that long 2’s are generally bad shots, he isn’t prone to picking up his dribble and he’s flanked by marksmen. If the Suns are trying to live the bygone Mike D’Antoni era, Dragic is the engine that’s powered their success.
Seth Partnow, (@WhrOffnsHppns): True. He was the biggest snub from the All-Star game, which in a perverse way will help his All-NBA candidacy, because he is “owed.” He’s more deserving than bigger names such as Damian Lillard (bad defense) and Russell Westbrook (injuries) because he’s not just putting up big numbers, he’s doing so efficiently, and it’s for a team that is winning games because of his production.
2. Why has Gerald Green improved so much this season?
Lynch: He’s become his own feedback loop. Coach of the Year candidate Jeff Hornacek did two very important things with Green. First, he instilled a ton of confidence into him, taking a special interest in his success. Second, he put Green in a system in which he could succeed, taking high percentage threes early in the year that further engendered that confidence. What’s so special for Green this year is that he’s kept his confidence on the proper side of the divide between self-belief and arrogance. He knows that he can continue to improve, so he doesn’t (always) try to step outside of his comfort zone. And that’s been huge for Green and the Suns, especially with the injury to Eric Bledsoe, because Green has taken on more responsibility, and he’s done well every step of the way.
Sohi: A role player’s success is conducive to the system he’s in. Green is an uber-athletic shooter but his last season in Indiana tells us there’s more to prosperity than what meets the eye. A team like Phoenix can hide Green’s foibles by turning them into advantages: One defender in the post means an extra second for some of Green’s more overconfident drives to turn into dunks. His mistakes, though still flabbergasting, are folded into a final product with a net positive outcome.
Partnow: Freedom. Jeff Hornacek looked at his team’s talent and decided that a rigid structure like he himself played in under Jerry Sloan didn’t suit them. No one has benefited more than Green who’s been able to unleash his combination of shooting and athleticism without having to worry about making the “correct” play.
3. Who’s the better Morris twin?
Lynch: Markieff, but they’re really different players this year. Marcus is more of a three-point specialist, taking over five threes per 36 minutes and making just under 40 percent of them. Markieff has largely eschewed the deep ball, concentrating instead on attempts from the mid-post and at the rim. It’s two means to a similar end – their true shooting percentages are separated by just o.5 percentage points – but Markieff has higher numbers across the rest of the board, other than steals. Either way, they’ve still got that weird twin ESP thing going on where they play better when they’re together – to separate them is to deflate their value.
Sohi: OK, awkward confession time: I have no idea. When I watch the Suns, I don’t even bother trying to figure out which is which. It took me until January to get their numbers right. Trying to parse out their individual stats seems unfair for role players. Marcus is the one that can shoot, right? I guess I’ll go with him. They should wear different jerseys. Oh, but one thing: They play well together. Passes, chemistry and such.
Partnow: Markieff. Another of Hornacek’s astute moves was recognizing Markieff does not have the consistent range to be a true stretch 4. Instead, he has been deployed as sort of a mini-LaMarcus Aldridge using his combo of power and quickness to score effectively from the mid-post and in. As a result, he’s shooting half as many 3s (where he’s a career 33 percent shooter) and twice as many free throws as in previous seasons, resulting in his efficient, high-volume scoring off the bench.